First published: 01st April 2010
Our occasional correspondent, Lirpa Loof, gives essential advice for protecting your identity online.
The online world has never been so dangerous, criminal gangs of phishers, botnet herds and lepidopterists roam websites and cyberspace, introducing bugs to trap the unwary. Protecting your money and information in these circumstances is difficult, but following a few, simple, rules will help:
Use your Password as your Pet's name
We all know that we should use long, complex passwords that are difficult to guess, but this makes them difficult to remember, too. What better way to remember your password than to use it for your treasured animal companion? When the creature finally dies, it is time to change your password. Use short-lived species for high security applications, such as online banking. Administrators who manage large numbers of systems may need a horde of mice, or, in extreme cases, an anthill.
Always Carry a Cheese-grater
We need to protect our security credentials from thieves and biometrics is becoming more popular. While giving a false password can gain you a little time when threatened, it is more difficult to fool an attacker with a fake biometric credential. A finger cast in silicone may fool a fingerprint reader, but is unlikely to satisfy a knife-wielding mugger. In these circumstances, a simple cheese-grater can be used to quickly and effectively erase the biometric credential.
Do Not Open Suspicious Emails
Just opening an email may expose you to dangerous malware. Suspicious emails may recognised by their innocuous subjects such as "urgent" or "Re: your document" and contents that, superficially, seem related to your work. Remember that the sender's address may be forged. For example, a message with the subject "urgent deadline!", supposedly from you boss saying that a crucial report is due today is obviously a spear-phishing trap, and should be immediately deleted. Use your psychic powers to determine the contents of the messages before opening.
Following these rules will keep your important information safe, for the rest of the morning.